A French soldier guarding the Louvre in central Paris opened fire on a man armed with a knife after he attempted to enter the museum, media reports say.
Michel Cadot, the head of the Paris police force, said a man carrying two backpacks shouted “Allahu akbar” (meaning ‘God is great’) as he “launched” himself at a French soldier in the Carrousel du Louvre area of the museum at around 10am. A different soldier then shot at the unidentified attacker five times, leaving him seriously wounded. Two machetes were found at the scene.
“We are dealing with an attack from an individual who was clearly aggressive and represented a direct threat, and whose comments lead us to believe that he wished to carry out a terrorist incident,” Cadot said, Sky News reports. The police chief also said a second person has been detained after they were spotted behaving suspiciously near the scene.
The area has been evacuated, according to police. French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve described the incident as “an attempted attack of a terrorist nature” during a visit to Bayeux in Normandy.
France’s interior ministry released a statement calling the event “serious” and asked locals to “prioritize the intervention of security and rescue forces”. For security reasons, the station Palais Royal Louvre Museum has been closed.
A spokewoman for the Louvre told Reuters that the museum – which houses Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa – was “closed for the moment” but would not confirm reports it had been evacuated.
Reports say around 250 people are locked inside, waiting to be evacuated in small groups.
France has become a major target for terrorists; attackers allied with ISIS have killed more than 230 people in the country over the past two years, according to Reuters.
Last July, 86 people were killed in the southern city of Nice when a man drove a truck into a crowd on the seafront, and last September, three women were arrested in connection to a vehicle containing gas canisters found near Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral.
The country faces a presidential election this spring, and security fears and the threat of ISIS are major issues being discussed by candidates. The capital was planning to formally submit a bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games to the International Olympics Committee (IOC) Friday.